“Welcome to Americana, please make your selection followed by the pound sign now.” You know it, when I hear the term “Americana,” my brain immediately goes to the Offspring’s 1998 banger of an album with said title (can we get a Buckethead on that for rearviewmirror? Hell fucking ya, baby.) But my perpetually sexy bucket-pal on the other side of the screen, who hangs his hat on Bruce Springsteen, Jason Greenberg and I are here to talk about a totally different Americana. Do I have ulterior motives in opening up this review with a genre conversation in hopes of getting the Greenberg all worked up? You bet your frosty ass I do (Jason: you cunt); though he was probably already champing at the bit to have a go at the Americana tag. Allow me to share my own thoughts before we unleash the mustachioed genre dragon.
I’ll say this, I don’t much care for the term. First, it denotes a place rather than any particular mood or feeling, and so I already struggle with classifying that. Second, is it not just an offshoot of country or folk, which is largely American anyhow? Third, and this is not really a point…how much steam do you think is emanating from Jason’s nostrils as I share my thoughts on Americana? (Jason: My sighs emit fire but that’s not the point) I’m going to steer my steed in another direction and say that Nick Costa’s latest release Tell My Mother I Love Her is a fantastic slice of folksy infused indie and you will take that slice and enjoy it!
Opener “I Don’t Feel Like Having Fun” sets the tone for an incredibly moody, hunker-down-by-the-fireplace-with-some-wine-and-a-melatonin album. Costa leans into the down tempo, simple verse/chorus/verse songwriter aesthetic and lets his vocals shift to the forefront, giving his numbers a storytelling quality. “Amber Eyes” continues the forlorn longing for love and youthfulness that recurs throughout much of Costa’s yarn spinning. Reliant still on that lazy backbeat and pulling those heat strings, the song is a peak highlight on the record for moi. I kept falling back to the word “comfortable” the more I listened to Tell My Mother I Love Her and more often than not, when I use the term, it’s quickly followed by the sentiment that I grew bored of the pitfalls associated with redundancy and formula. But I’m stepping out of character for you, Mr. Costa, because what you do, you do so very well. Maybe it’s seasonal depression, supplemented by a pandemic but for whatever the reason, these songs hit on a vibration that I needed to feel right now. In saying that I also recognize that you absolutely have to be in a particular mood to appreciate Nick Costa, and for that, it didn’t get upper echelon marks. If it’s Sunday morning and I’m having my coffee, “Ashes” is exactly the kind of song I want percolating in my brain. If I’m out and about, vibing on some higher energy, I’d be liable to hit skip. Point finale: Tell My Mother I Love Her is mood music that falls into genres that can allow for some redundancy for the sake of comfort.
A few things have been made perfectly clear here. One, My George Michael-ian compatriot here has a penchant for annoyance where I do not (sweet tasty foreshadowing). Two, comfort is found from within. Three, I was indeed raised on a very American-brand strain of rock and/or roll. Fourth and finally, as well as likely the most obvious, I’m a grumpy asshole. I’ll rip the band-aid off here before we truly dissect the open wounds. I’m not a fan of this record for two very simple reasons. “Wish You Were Here” was already written by Pink Floyd, and Tom Petty lived, died, and left behind a legacy most iconically recognized by his voice and adoration for not only intoxication but for love and its subsequent heartbreaks. The fact that both of these acts have come and gone does not then turn one Nick Costa into some kind of fucking “Highlander” situation, where he inherits the powers and responsibilities of those whom have “Americana’d” before him. There it is, truly and honestly the meanest thing I could have said about this artist/record. Let’s do a little redeeming, yeah?
Tell My Mother I Love Her lays itself bare on the table in terms of what it’s going for, which of course could be why I’m so discontent, but I can still at least respect the fact that I know what Costa is going for here. Raw, heartfelt, and “comfortable” all sit at the forefront of each and every one of these songs. My issue with “raw” is that I’m (for the millionth fucking time) a firm believer of being different or being better than everybody else doing it. In this case, “raw” didn’t bring enough to the party with which to set itself apart from. “Heartfelt” only goes so far when it’s made in perpetuum of itself and, as mentioned before, comfort wasn’t the emotion I personally found within myself here, but within the songwriting and attempts at shooting for an age-old style of art creation. I’m not trying to say that this record is by any means a rip-off, but I can’t get around the fact that I feel like I’ve heard either these songs or this voice before, and in capacities with which I was far more in love with them. This very much could be because, as already cited, I grew up on the swindle and croon of one Tom Petty and his Heartbreakers from a very tender young age whilst galavanting along in my mother’s red GMC minivan.
Not all who are, allegedly, over-influenced in their artistic vision are lost though. Sometimes approaching any creation takes different days and different perceptions as my darling shower-obsessive friend has eluded to. I cracked at this record in multiple attempts and was caught in a moment of adoration for “Kennel.” While this track still irks at my true love for Tom, it still manages to ever so slightly set itself apart from the pack of songs preceding it on this record with an emotional implication of perseverance and a musical infrastructure that inexplicably hits a different nerve. Take your hits where you gotta take ’em and enjoy yourself in the in-betweens, I guess.
Here we stand, staunchly at different emotional poles and perceptions as part of yet another Bi-polar review (because words and emotions have multiple meanings, in case anybody thought we were just piggybacking on a mental illness <3). Regardless of where you are on this record or art in general, be it the cuntiest of grumpiness, or peak chill comfort bro, we can at least agree on a few things. Sad songs are awesome. Take your time to enjoy art the way you feel you need to, and you shouldn’t eat full meals in the shower or the extensive moisture exposure will make your ceiling cave in. I know, Lee, it’s OK, buddy, oh-… Oh, please don’t start crying.
Written by Lee Ferguson and Jason Greenberg
*Edited by Chris Aitkens